Friday, November 28, 2008

New Job

Exactly two months ago, I left a group of radio stations for whom I'd worked almost six years to become Sales Manager of a small tv network station in the resort area where we live. I've spent 27 years in broadcast radio sales & management and it was not easy for me to make the decision to leave. I had watched radio broadcasting move away from the once-great AM stations of my youth to the edgy and groundbreaking FMs of my late teens and college years. Having grown up in the the Los Angeles radio market, I was used to great disc jockeys, great station jingles and fun promotions. As teenagers, we all listened to the radio via transistors. Most of us started with 45's of our favorite singles, graduating to 33 1/3 LPs when we could afford it. Music was the tie that binds in that every single event in our lives was associated with at least one song or another. To this day, I can pinpoint the year most songs released because I remember what I was doing at the time it was popular on the radio. Baseball was another great radio past time. Vin Scully, still going strong after 60 years as the voice of the Dodgers, was my sports announcer hero. Who didn't listen to their favorite team on the radio?

My father worked in radio for close to fifty years. He started out in Chicago during the Depression, working for an independent rep firm that represented radio stations around the country. His job was to present the features & benefits of each station to the big ad agencies on Michigan Ave. He went on to Canada, working with the pioneering families in Canadian radio, eventually settling in LA to open his own rep firm where I would cut my teeth.

But I digress. I loved radio and all it represented. I worked for Dad as a teenager. After college, I eventually started on the ad agency side of the business as a buyer of radio, television and print. Going into media sales was a natural step and I chose radio probably because of all it represented to me at the time. I enjoyed many years of great times with great people working for great and not-so-great stations. Little by little, the business changed and, as with so much of what has occurred in American business over the last 10-15 years, consolidation took over. As it did, the individuals were bought out and individualism was weeded out. Economies of scale became the norm and all the joy and originality went too. I got out for a few years, thinking I'd never go back as it was no longer the same.

I eventually needed to go back to work and radio was what I knew best. So back I went...a fifty year old woman, no less! I was hired by a three station cluster and hit the streets with all good intentions. The company for whom I worked was huge, fifth largest in the US at the time of my hiring; third largest now. Unfortunately, they know nothing about radio. This company has decimated the existing stations they own, all in the name of those economies of scale. Voice tracking is the norm, live shows the exception. Sales departments do not try to help or please their clients, there's no money in that. The CEO took the group public and ran the price of the stock down to pennies. This company is now firing middle managers, long time air talent, and anyone who isn't absolutely positively necessary to the day-to-day business. It's a bloodbath out there and I mourn the losses. But, boy, I did I get out just in time.


Anonymous said...

Your story sounds like mine. I came from a radio family my dad sold radio advertising and became part owner too. I landed in sales and decided to sell what I knew and loved, radio. I spent over 22 years hitting the streets and had a run a management during my time. Sold in markets 119 and 98 then I hit the big time with market 47, or so I thought.
Through the years and consolidation the business changed, but not for a good purpose.

The new breed of Wall Street managers, are more concerned with milking clients dry, than actually helping and building their business. Upon reaching market 47 I didn’t fit in,
I actually cared about clients and was focused on getting results, my cohorts and managers just wanted money and more of it. It’s like screw the client, hit budget.

So I left and like you I’m glad I did. Towards the end things in Jacksonville Fl, got much worst, and with the economy, management let go the entire promotions department and I lost count of the actual number of people who were fired in just one year.

Being in radio I’m sure you’ve heard this said before. “Radio eats its young.”
But here’s my new updated version of that old sang.

Radio ate it’s young, all of them.

Sort of like “ The dingo ate your baby”

Nancy said...

Wow, your story is so much like so many other once honorable businesses ruined because of the desire to make money - not a good product. I'm glad you got out in time. I have thought about looking for a job in the field I have my education, and found there is a need - but it pays $12.00 per hour. I hope you found a job doing something you love doing. (I thought one of your earlier blogs mentioned a great job.) Fun economic times, huh?

California Girl said...

Thank you both for your comments.

I am wondering if you were in Jacksonville when the Grease Man was there? I was a natl media buyer before I sold radio and I used to buy WAPE (I think that was his station) WAXY and a couple of others in that market. It was really back in the day (late 70's).

Anyway, it was a great time while it lasted!

hil77running said...

Hello - I found your blog through Jerry Del Colliano's "Inside Music Media" blog. I'm an ex-radio person - seven years in the industry (college, medium, and large market). Radio has always been part of my life, from getting my first AM radio in grade school to building a collection of radio station stickers up through college. I still love radio and it breaks my heart to see the state of the industry. When I began in 1990, radio was still vibrant. I began my radio career on-air and as music director at my college station. During college I spent two summers at a medium market station as a promotions assistant. After college I was at a large market station as a sales assistant. I left radio in 1997 because I saw the big changes on the horizon, and I wanted a more stable career with more earning potential. It must be even more heartbreaking to have such a long career as yours and end up leaving it because the top executives have sucked the industry dry. Thanks for this great blog.

California Girl said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts. I'm actually having fun working in tv now. It's different and people are more receptive to advertising on it. What breaks my heart is that many of my colleagues are now losing their jobs at my old station as well as stations across the country where I've also worked. It's a tough tiime for everyone.